(Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two part look at zoning from Wyatt’s Nashville office. Though written from a Tennessee perspective, many of the tips are applicable across Wyatt’s offices in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi.)

When attempting to rezone property, it is important to become acquainted with your surroundings. An effort to rezone a piece of property is, in many ways, like a political campaign, requiring equal amounts of field work, research, public relations and addressing constituent concerns. What follows are five important tips for getting property rezoned for commercial development.

Get to Know the Geography

Before doing anything else, get to know the land. If the subject property is located within a city or county in which you are unfamiliar, drive there and spend some time exploring. If you know someone who lives in the area of the subject property, ask them to show you around the area in an effort to understand how the particular parcel fits in with the surrounding community. For example, if you are attempting to rezone a vacant lot from residential to commercial, and the subject lot is surrounded by other residential zones, understand how a potential commercial rezoning might impact the area and if the location makes sense for the goals you are trying to accomplish with your project. Understanding the “lay of the land” is critical.

Brush up on the History

Has the subject property been rezoned in the past? Has someone applied for a rezoning of the subject property in the past? Did the rezoning attempt pass or was it denied? If it was denied, what were the reasons for the denial? Contacting local zoning officials and requesting minutes, notes, tapes, records, etc. from prior attempted rezonings for the subject property will prove invaluable. If someone else has already encountered the challenges related to rezoning for the particular property, learn from those challenges before you launch you campaign.